Shoreham and Littlehampton lifeboat volunteers at Westminster Abbey for RNLI Thanksgiving Service

​​Volunteers from Shoreham and Littlehampton lifeboat stations joined the Duke of Kent and Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey to commemorate and celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the RNLI.

Seven volunteers from Shoreham Lifeboat Station and seven from Littlehampton joined crews and fundraisers from across the UK and Ireland in London for the Westminster Thanksgiving Service on Monday, March 4.

The idea for the charity was formulated by Sir William Hillary. Living in Douglas, on the Isle of Man, Hillary witnessed many shipwrecks along the Manx coast and with the help of locals saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost.

In February 1823, he published a pamphlet with his plans for a lifeboat service for the whole of the UK and Ireland, appealing for a 'National Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck'.

With the support of two MPs, benefactors were obtained and King George IV offered royal patronage. On March 4, 1824, at the London Tavern in Bishopsgate, the fledgling RNLI was inaugurated.

Among the Shoreham volunteers at the service were long-serving second coxswain and second mechanic Simon Tugwell and deputy mechanic Ben Coe.

The Shoreham station was established by the RNLI in 1865 but there are records of a lifeboat there dating back to 1845. Eight Medals of Gallantry of been awarded, five silver and three bronze.

Proud to represent Littlehampton were Nick White, Jim Cosgrove, Cian Mathews, Lynne Stephens, Gill Partington, Ian Flack and Anthony Fogg attended the commemoration service at Westminster Abbey.

Mr White, lifeboat operations manager, said: "It was inspiring to witness so many of the charity’s volunteers gathered together to mark the bicentenary of the RNLI.

"Knowing that we are carrying on a 200-year tradition of going to sea in all weathers to assist those in distress is humbling. Together with my colleagues from Littlehampton and RNLI volunteers from all points of the compass it has been an honour to commemorate 200 years of saving lives at sea; 200 years and counting."

They were representing all those involved in lifeboat operations and fundraising at Littlehampton, where the station’s history goes back to 1840, with records indicating 2,846 launches and 392 lives saved up to the end of 2023.

Those visiting the harbour on the east bank, near Fisherman’s Quay, will be greeted by a modern boathouse built in 2002. This is home to two inshore lifeboats, Ray of Hope with its D-Class single engine and Renee Sherman with a B-Class twin engine.

Several of the station’s lifeboats, now retired, were proud to carry the name Blue Peter I for 50 years from 1967 until 2017. Next to the boathouse is the RNLI shop and to commemorate the 200th anniversary there is an exclusive range of items available for purchase that support the charity.

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